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A resilient mountain village
A pilot demonstration project on earthquake reconstruction and rehabilitation in Dhungentar, Nuwakot.
The catastrophic 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal on 25 April 2015 resulted in 8,790 deaths and the destruction of 498,852 private houses, with losses estimated to be around USD 7 billion, or about a third of Nepal’s GDP.
The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), as an intergovernmental organization committed to knowledge generation and development in the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH), focused on promoting long-term recovery, initiating reconstruction efforts and building resilience among mountain communities.
Accordingly, in partnership with the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) and with support from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), ICIMOD began implementing a pilot demonstration project from April 2016 — ‘Resilient Mountain Village: A Pilot Demonstration Project on Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation in Dhungentar, Nuwakot’.
Local project implementation was overseen by Sahayata Samajik Sanstha in coordination with ICIMOD’s field team. The key objectives of the project are as follows:
Read about how Dhungentar’s disadvantaged status and gender inequality present unique challenges for post-disaster recovery.
Learn about the economic insecurity and vulnerability of Dhungentar locals.
Learn how vulnerable houses were before the earthquake, and read about the damage inflicted on the community by the disaster.
Nuwakot district was severely affected during the 2015 earthquake, witnessing 1,109 deaths and injuries to 1,050 people. There was substantial damage to public and private infrastructure, with 75,562 private houses and 15 government buildings fully damaged. Dhungentar settlement – located in Bidur Municipality, western Nuwakot – fortunately avoided deaths and injuries during the earthquake; however, the damage to homes and livelihoods was considerable.
Dhungentar, which covers 96 households, was chosen for this pilot demonstration project since it had been identified as an ideal site by ICIMOD’s Hi-AWARE Initiative during a climate change study of the Gandaki Basin. The following findings from a social survey conducted by ICIMOD in 2016 underline Dhungentar’s suitability for the implementation of the pilot project.
Dhungentar’s vulnerability to disasters was laid bare during the 2015 earthquake: all houses except one were classified as fully damaged in the aftermath. Considering the fact that Archale Village has also been identified as a landslide-prone area, the pressing need for disaster-resilient infrastructure in Dhungentar is apparent.
Secure infrastructures are particularly important in Dhungentar given the settlement’s socioeconomic fragility. Accordingly, this pilot demonstration project focused on building disaster-resilient houses and toilets, along with improving road connectivity within and to the settlement to stimulate development and ensure future resilience against shocks.
The reconstruction in Dhungentar was supported, interlocking compressed stabilised soil blocks (CSSBs) were promoted by the project, and how this technology fares in comparison to reinforced cement concrete (RCC).
Read about the need for road connectivity within Dhungentar and how the project helped link village clusters.
"I remember the 1990 (1934 AD) earthquake. It seemed like the earth spun towards the sky. It made everything dance. And it took everything with it—there was nothing left. The recent earthquake wasn’t as bad. But my house was flattened again. I had to struggle once again to build a new house...- Kanchhi Maya Tamang, Karamfedi
The engagement of community members is integral to the development of any community. This project sought to mobilise locals in the reconstruction and rehabilitation process, encouraging community ownership for lasting development. This mobilisation began before the beginning of the project with a familiarisation programme for project beneficiaries and continued with other participatory approaches and sessions. Different community groups were formed to entrust greater decision-making responsibility to the community. Similarly, community congregation areas were improved and constructed to create better spaces for discussion, learning, and growth.
Learn how the project introduced the community to its vision and how it initiated local engagement in the development activities through a participatory 3-D model.
Read about the different local institutions the project helped establish in order to encourage community ownership and ensure lasting development.
Read about the construction of and improvements to important community spaces that allow locals to interact, bond, and grow.
Marginalised/Dalit communities constitute the majority of Dhungentar’s residents, and their economic insecurity is highlighted by dependence on subsistence agriculture and traditional, low-earning occupations. The income-earning population is largely composed of men, and a sizeable segment of the community has migrated abroad (mostly to the Middle East) for employment.
Given Dhungentar’s socioeconomic vulnerabilities, this pilot demonstration project focused its rehabilitation activities on improving livelihoods and laying the foundation for the establishment of local enterprises capable of uplifting the entire settlement. Particular emphasis was placed on organising training programmes on income-generating skills, mobilising the untapped women workforce, and building sustainable local enterprises that offer employment. This can help reverse the current migration trend, drawing Dhungentar locals back from Qatar to Battar.
Read about how interlocking compressed stabilised soil blocks (CSSBs) were produced by trained locals in Dhungentar.
Learn about the different training programmes organised in Dhungentar helped locals, mostly women, acquire income-generation skills.
Learn about Hira Lal Sunar’s agriculture model, which displays efficient and varied farming techniques that could be replicated throughout Dhungentar.
Read why traditional occupations require support and how blacksmith sheds and watermills have been improved to this end.
"I didn’t even know how to use a shovel when I went for the block production training. They said we should learn how to make these blocks and that we would get them for free to build our houses. So I went. We were mostly women there as the men were away working. In 20 days, I slowly learned about the process and about all the materials needed...
- Sunita Mijar, Ratamate
Strong structures are necessary for any community’s security against future shocks. The project has addressed the need for disaster-resilient infrastructure: shelters, toilets, and roads. Beyond this first layer of safety, access to services such as drinking water, irrigation, and health are essential for post-disaster recovery and long-term development. Further, the introduction of information technology for practical uses can catalyse growth, whereas the application of environment-friendly home systems and practices allow for continued self-sustenance. Therefore, to make Dhungentar a resilient mountain village, this pilot demonstration project emphasised on improving access to fundamental services and creating a self-reliant village.